The Kyiv office
of the State Commercial Bank was founded half a century ago, in 1839. Later a
large one-storey house built in Empire style in Institutskaya street was purchased for the
Bank. (The Kyiv office of the State Bank of Russia, established in 1860 on the
basis of Posikov and Commercial Banks was located in
this very building).
Looking at the
old pictures, one can judge, that it was a rather exquisite two-storied
building with striking eight-column portico and two projections on each facade
side. However, the Bank's financial operations expanded year after year and it
was quite evident, that the old house was not any longer able to meet the
growing demands of the State Bank. It was decided to construct a new modern
building. The fate of the old one was not lucky. The Ukrainian historian Fedir Ernst wrote in his reference book "Kyiv.
Explorer", published in 1930: "the construction was absolutely
spoiled - its right wing was cut off and the portico - destructed". It can
be distinctly seen at two pictures, made with the difference in 90 years.
However, first, the building was designed as adaptable to the changed conditions,
but nothing good came of that.One of the arguments
against reconstruction was that the building was far from Khreshchatik
- Kyiv trade and business centre and very poor
connected to this street because of the steep ascent along Institutskaya
street. 10 years were spent for searching of new construction sites ( which
were rejected one after another by Petersburg) and for persuading the
Petersburg State Bank and Mr.Vitte (the then Minister
of Finance), that it was impossible to enlarge the old building, so the only
way out was to construct a new one. Only in autumn 1902, the construction
started. And not in the attractive Kreshchatik,
but in the same Institutskaya street, near the old
as O.Kobelyev, P.Holandskyi
and V.Gorodetskyi (the famous designer and owner of
the Fancy House (1901-1903)) participated at the tender for the best design.
The Kobelev's design was ackowledged
as the best one and the work started. Later, architekt
Verbytskyi, who designed the main facade, joined the
To manage the
construction process, a special Commission was formed. It developed the
following basic construction principles:
- the premises were to be planned as large as to meet bank's requirements for
at least 50 years;
- great attention had to be paid to strength and durability of the building
- almost all woodern parts had to be excluded to make
it fully fire-protective.
All the above-mentioned reequirements were observed.
Furthermore, the spacious reserve underground premises for future needs were
designed as well.
To achieve the best quality of works, the Commission decided not to charge the
only Contractor with the whole range of construction works. (As we see now, it
was absolutely reasonable). About one hundred construction companies applied
for participating at the construction. The tenderers used to be invited for
every art of construction works.
Not all applicants were admitted, but only
well-known and reliable building companies with good business reputation. In a
result of a very hard competition, about 20 subcontractors were selected. Among
them were South-Russian machine building plant, construction companies of Hynsburg, Schmidt, Bronykovskyi
and Zommer, Schwarzenberg
and Safonov, construction companies of Leipzig, Magdeburg,
The italian sculptor Elyo Sala was invited for exterior and interior decorative
On August 1,
1905, the banking operations were transfered to the
new building and on the 22-d of February, next
year, the bank premises were sanctified.The city of Kyiv had received a
beautiful modern one-storied building with ground and basement floors. It was
supplied with central heating, electric lighting and airing system. Seven
electric ventilators, by capacity of 18 h.p.,
were able to repump air in all premises within one
hour. In winter, it was heated by heating system, in summer,
the air was cooled when passing through cold underground corridors.
As it was
underlined in the already cited short essay on the bank construction, published
in 1906 in Kyiv, heating and airing problem was so important in buildings of
this kind, that all members of the Commission had no doubt as to using the best
achievements of the field in spite of great expenses. The cost of all heating
and airing systems amounted to 100.000 roubles (one
ninth part of the total construction cost of the bank's building and 4-storied
annex house for the bank employees, cost of furniture included).
detail. The air for
ventilation was taken from a special rose garden laid out in the bank yard.
Every morning specially installed air collectors were turned on and rose
fragrance was brought to all bank premises...
the design, 5 meter-spacings were foreseen between
the neighbouring house and the old bank building. It
allowed to make a very unusual binding of the new
building to surrounding houses. It was compositionaly
tied to the neighbouring houses with a stone gate.
This gave the bank building an advantage before the other bank's premises, for
example, in Khreshchatik street,
where they were built in one unbroken line. Moreover, this building formed the
construction line of Institutskaya street
and a perspective of Bankivska street. It
determined the importance of the building, included to the historical Lypki ensamble, for urban
The brick annex
house for the bank employees by Kobelev's design was
erected in the yard. Its facades were built in the same style as the main
building. There were 32 single-and two-room appartments
in the annex building and the basement floor.
The rooms were heated
Though area of
the bank premises was planned in such a way as to meet the bank's requirements
for no less than 50 years, as far back as in 1933, the Central office of the
State Bank failed to correspond to the growing demands of the city (due to
forthcoming transfering of the Ukrainian capital from
Kharkiv to Kyiv). So, it was decided to add two more
stories to the main building.Only in rare occasions
that such additions did not interfere with a building's integrity and
proportional unity.May be,
for this very reason, first Kobelev refused to
participate in such risky undertaking. Was he afraid of spoiling his most
perfect piece of work? But the fact was, that Kobelev in cooperation with Rykov
started to develop the design for two more floors.
Started on February 25, 1934, the construction works were completed within 8.5
months, before November 7.
Some interesting technical details as to this reconstruction should be
mentioned. The second and third floors were built
simultaneously with lifting the roof . It meant,
that the roof was not removed, but it was cut into seven fragments and step by
step lifted with lifting jacks. After the walls masonry had been finished , roof fragments were fixed upon cast iron pillows
and welded again. The roof was lifted by 12 m, its weight amounted to 330 tons
and the perimeter was 400 meters.
the pictures of the bank appearance before and after reconstruction of 1934.
Due to the architects' skill the structure became even more expressive and
beautiful. No doubt, the fate of the building
In its lay-out, the NBU- structure was H-like. Two parallely
located three-storied buildings were compositionally united by the operating
hall, the main bank's hall, richly decorated with stucco mouldings
and stained-glass windows. Building facades were executed in the style of
north-Italian Gothic and late Renaissance. Brick walls of the main facade were
covered with artificial stone, imitating grey granite and rose sandstone.
portal with a balcony and front colonade was a
compositional centre of the main facade. Two
symmetrical risallittes (projecting parts) on each
side of the portal made it more ceremonial and expressive. Risallittes
were decorated with balconies and twin half-circular windows and ended with a
small attic wall and light towers at each corner.
Side parts of
the main facade were decorated with rows of regularly arranged windows. Twin
windows of the ground floor were separated with thin Corinthian columns. Large
apertures of the first floor with half circular top parts were filled with rossette decorated twin windows. Lower window parts of the
first and the third floors were decorated with rustica
facing and lion head-sculptures.
of the structure was underlined by broad majolica cornice. External facade
walls were fastened by convoluted columns with decorative towers, supported by
the figures of enormous griffons - winged lions. It's interesting to mention that
griffons in ancient methology were considered to be
the guards of gold mines.
mentioned, that Elio Sala, Italian sculptor of the
second half of X1X-th - beginning of XX-th centuries
(1864-1920), was invited to make decoration works.
Sculptor Elio Sala came to Kyiv in the 90-es of the last century. He
arrived together with his two brothers - an artist and a plastic worker. He
worked a lot with a famous architect Vladislav Gorodetskyi. Their cooperation began during construction of
the city Fine Art Museum (now the National Fine Arts
museum in Grushevskyi
street, 6). The Italian
master executed there the pediment composition, lions
figures near the entrance and griffons by the structure corners. Then Sala
decorated the Karaite church in Yaroslaviv
Val ,7 (now Actor's House), also constructed by
architect Gorodetskyi. But most of all,
contemporaries were impressed by Sala's sculpture works, decorating the Fancy
House (Bankova, 10), designed by Vladyslav
Gorodetskyi. As decorative elements he used images of
different animals (elephant heads, deers, rhunoceros, gigantic toads), fishing nets among waves, made
of concrete. Furthemore, Sala decorated catholic St.Mykolai Cathedral (Chervonoarmiiska, 75), Head building of the Politechnical colleage, City
Theatre structure (now the National Opera House).
carefully decorated Sala and the State Bank building. This time much was spoken
about its exterior decoration, it should be added, that the interior was very
beautiful and festive as well. The interior was remarkable for its uniform
style, good lighting arrangement, reasonable and comfortable internal lay-out.
There was a lot of plastic decor and carving - especially in the operating
hall: sculptures of ancient Gods of Hermesus, Demetra, Athena-Pallada and Hephestus.
Plastic decorations, such as shield with emblems and coat of arms upon them
were located along the Hall perimeter above the balcony. In the middle of the
hall cealing there was the glass image of the archiangel Michayil, patron of
Kyiv, restored recently in its original appearance. It should be mentioned,
that brothers Sala introduced new methords of casting
sculptures and other plastic elements. The matter is, that the cast was not
filled with alabaster, but with a half-dry mixed concrete. This method
had a lot of advantages before the alabaster one, especially by facade
90-es, the kyivites and the guests of the city have
been admiring this pearl of architecture, created by architect Kobelev together with thousands of unknown masters. Due to
its high artistic merits, this structure is one of the best Kyiv buildings of
XX-th century. Passing it by, please find a few
minutes in your daily bustle and stop for a while to admire this unique
creation of human hands and you will feel, that life
is not as bad, as we sometimes think about it.